The Emperor of St. Louis has a few stories to tell

“Coming out in my teens in the pre-internet Bible Belt, I was fascinated with all the colorful, older queens I met who didn’t have a pot to piss in, yet had the most fascinating delusions of grandeur.

Until recently LGBT people weren’t allowed to be themselves publicly, so they created tiny fantasy worlds where they could be whatever they wanted, be that a pageant winner, a macho biker, a celebrity, one of the popular kids in their own high school reenactment, or royalty. Even their relationships were pretend, not being recognized outside the walls of gay establishments or private homes.

Like a porcupine’s quills, a sharp wit evolved out of necessity, used for defense and as a deterrent in a hostile world.”

Activist and AMERICAblog contributor Chris Andoe is out with a new book, Delusions of Grandeur: A Few Hundred Tales from the Emperor of St. Louis, and you should read it.

You shouldn’t read it because Andoe writes here, nor should you read it because John Aravosis and AMERICAblog get mentions in the book. You shouldn’t even read it because it’s currently sitting at number six in Amazon’s Hot New Releases list in Gay & Lesbian Biographies.

You should read it because it’s a riot.

Andoe’s long been known for collecting stories, and an accompanying cast of characters, that would make the most audacious screenwriter blush. As he wrote in 2013, of the “hot gay mess in St. Louis:”

You’ve got a bar owner rumored to have burned down one of his bars for the insurance money, then getting his mugshot in the paper for allegedly embezzling funds from a Hamburger Mary’s – all while former employees, who publicly complain of bad checks, vent about him showering his beautiful young boyfriend with expensive gifts including a car.

You’ve got another top bar owner charging a $30 cover for an emotional going out of business gala, only to open up for business as usual the following morning.

You’ve got a beloved local celebrity forced to resign from leading the LGBT Center for misuse of funds.

You’ve got a trans advocate who, having fallen out of favor with the establishment, bitterly calls out community pillars in epic tirades vowing revenge.

Then there’s the former Pride President turned convicted sexual predator. And this is just scratching the surface. I live in the Bay Area, have traveled from New York to New Zealand, and I’ve never seen a show like this.

Scandal!

Scratching the surface, indeed.

Andoe’s stories take the reader from debauchery-filled basements in East St. Louis to political activism against Anonymous in San Francisco and beyond, introducing you to a cast of characters ranging from the Mayor of Gay Oklahoma City to narcoleptic drag queens to conniving landlords to Ferguson protestors. As the Vital Voice writes, Andoe’s stories, along with the people who are featured in them, “grab you by the throat and slam you down in the backseat of a rusty Cadillac, speeding off into a blur of chaos.”

delusions of grandeur

The stories are grittier, funnier, sadder and more evocative than fiction could ever be. The reader is introduced to homeless squatters in abandoned buildings, politicians at the highest levels of municipal government, socialites, con men and combinations thereof. The reader is guided through stories of wild parties, political movements, bitter breakups and epic adventures. They are at once deeply personal and overwhelmingly relatable; blindingly absurd and cuttingly emotional.

Most importantly, they are true, which in reading the book was something that I kept having to remind myself of. The stories in Delusions of Grandeur are stories of life, death, love and reckless abandon taken to extremes few could imagine, let alone live, let alone imagine living in one lifetime.

Ben Franklin said that one should either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Chris Andoe has done both of those things. Delusions of Grandeur is a masterful work of storytelling, guiding the reader through worlds unimaginably real. Go read it.

And, of course, share your reactions on social media, as the readers above have. The hashtag of record is #DelusionsOfGrandeur.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • 2karmanot

    Yes! Ever sense the Violet Quill stopped painting its nails, put its fan in hock and closed the drapes, we have been in mourning! Go Andoe!

  • Rhonda Chavez

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  • Indigo

    Oh, what fun! I hope he comes to Orlando to scope out off-stage DinseyWhirl, the untold story.#DelusionsOfGrandeur

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